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Niagara Falls
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Council moves to protect town-owned trees from development

Evan Saunders
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

Niagara-on-the-Lake council is taking steps to prevent the destruction of healthy trees on municipal property.

Councillors unanimously passed a motion by Coun. Sandra O’Connor that says the town will “strive to protect and preserve (healthy) trees” on municipal property from destruction due to development.  

“We’ve had a couple situations where some of us have been disappointed (about) a tree on a municipal property having to come down,” Coun. Allan Bisback told council.  

The vote clarifies the language and policies in bylaw 1873-17, which regulates the town's ability to protect trees on public property, in order to ensure the town can enforce the protection of healthy trees. 

In an interview, O’Connor noted the economic and ecological importance of trees for Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

“They do raise property values,” she said, “so from an economic perspective it is better.” 

“But it’s so much more than that,” O’Connor said. “They clean our air, they provide oxygen, they cool our houses down in the summertime, they provide absorption of water to prevent flooding issues and major runoff, and they provide shelter for birds and animals. So, for all these variety of reasons, trees are very important to us.” 

O’Connor also noted the importance of trees from a heritage perspective and of recognizing and protecting mature trees. “If they’re healthy,” she added.  

She stressed the town will use qualified arborists to provide reports on the health and safety of trees and said the town had no interest in maintaining trees that are at the end of their lifecycle or are hazardous to the buildings and people around them.  

The motion also says: “Applicants must be willing to work with the town to preserve and accommodate existing healthy trees and may be required to alter their proposed driveway locations and home designs where reasonable.”  

“It’s very important for us to define what reasonable is,” O’Connor said.

“If there were a large number of mature trees in front of the whole lot, then perhaps one might have to come down to enable entrance to it,” she said. 

Those details will be refined with staff over the next few weeks and will be outlined in the bylaw document. 

The motion also deals with what happens if tree removal is allowed for driveways or home design.  

“The owner will be required to pay for a tree to be planted along the frontage of the property,” the motion says. 

The town has a list of approved trees that can be planted along streets.  

If none of those trees are suitable due to placement of utilities or because they obscure the sightline of the road then the owner will “have to contribute an (undetermined) amount to the town's tree fund,” according to the motion.

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